Thursday, November 5, 2009

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Grist on the NYT's "baseless hit job on Gore," plus the story's origin in a Fox News doctored video

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 08:34 AM PST Gore is in the spotlight again with his must-read solutions book — "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis." And that means the daggers are out.  But who would have imagined that one of the first pieces would be by the NYT's John Broder, who repeats the false claims by "Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics," that "Mr. Gore is poised to become the world's first 'carbon billionaire,' profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in."  I'm going to repost a piece by Media Matters from May that looks at one of the despicable origins of this smear, "O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham presented clips of Al Gore's recent congressional testimony that had been edited to remove his statements that he donates the money he makes from his climate-related work to a non-profit organization."

But first I'm going to repost a response to the NYT piece by Grist's Dave Roberts:

Al Gore's back in the public eye, promoting his new book, which naturally raises the question: which mainstream press outlet will be the first to do a vapid hit piece?

Today [Monday] we have our answer: The New York Times, which has run a truly absurd and embarrassing piece from John Broder. It casts about desperately seeking something sinister about the fact that Gore invests in clean energy technologies. Listen to this piece of dark insinuation:

Few people have been as vocal about the urgency of global warming and the need to reinvent the way the world produces and consumes energy. And few have put as much money behind their advocacy as Mr. Gore and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes.

Gore is "positioned to profit," you understand. No wonder he's dedicated most of his adult life to schlepping around the world giving a slide show to tens of thousands of people! It was all to marginally increase the return on his future investments! Diabolical.

Who is saying this absurd crap?

"Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world's first 'carbon billionaire' …" Critics like loony Rep. Marsha Blackburn and denialist propaganda hack Marc Morano. These are the people driving the NYT news operation now.

But look down toward the bottom. No, farther … farther … farther … yeah, waaay down in the second-to-last paragraph:

"I believe that the transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it," Mr. Gore said, adding that he had put "every penny" he has made from his investments into the Alliance for Climate Protection.

So all the money from Gore's investments is invested in a nonprofit to fight climate change. He's not "positioned to profit." He's not "poised" to become a "billionaire." The entire premise of the story is false. I'm sure the tiny percentage of readers who make it down this far in the story will be delighted to discover they've completely wasted their time.

To summarize:  Professional Gore haters, who make their living peddling lies, cast an absurd charge against Gore. The charge goes in the headline. It goes in the first paragraphs of the story. Then in paragraph 32 it's revealed that the charge is baseless. And John Broder wasn't embarrassed to have this appear under his byline.

Oh, and to state the obvious:  even if it were true, nobody but a professional Gore hater could possibly find anything wrong with someone investing in the very solutions they say are necessary to save the world. The non-Gore-demented might even find that a perfectly predictable way for a capitalist to respond.

As this Daily Kos diary points out, this seems of a piece with the New York Times' stated desire to be more "tuned-in" to Fox and right-wing talk radio. Apparently in our new media age, a baseless charge from 'wingers is in and of itself justification for an extended story on the nation's most precious news real estate. Welcome to the future.

JR:  As I wrote back in May, if you saw Gore's terrific testimony on Waxman-Markey with former Sen. Warner (details here, full CSPAN video here), then you saw the absurd attempt by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to suggest that the reason Gore has been advocating climate action for decades is to make money.  FoxNews doctored the video of Gore's response to smear him, and I'm excerpting a post from Morgan Weiland and the researchers at Media Matters who first blogged on this outrage in here.

On the May 1 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, during a segment suggesting that former Vice President Al Gore has profited from his advocacy of renewable energy and climate change mitigation, guest host Laura Ingraham presented clips of Gore's April 24 congressional testimony that had been edited to remove his statements that he donates the money he makes from his climate-related work to a non-profit organization.

Introducing the segment, Ingraham stated: "It seems that being green does pay big time — just ask Al Gore. Mr. Global Warming was worth about $2 million or so when he left office in 2001, but after eight years of tirelessly working to save the world, the planet, he's now reportedly — get this — worth a whopping $100 million. His financial windfall came up at last week's Capitol Hill hearing." Ingraham then aired the following selectively edited clips from Gore's testimony:

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Is the legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?

[Ingraham's cut]

GORE: If you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don't know me.

[Ingraham's cut]

GORE: I've been willing to put my money where my mouth is. Do you think there's something wrong with being active in business in this country?

BLACKBURN: I am simply asking for clarification –

GORE: I'm proud of it.

BLACKBURN: — of the relationship.

GORE: I'm proud of it.

The full exchange from the hearing is included below, with the parts Ingraham provided in italics, and Gore's relevant responses — which were omitted from the O'Reilly Factor segment — in bold:

BLACKBURN: So you're a partner in Kleiner Perkins. OK. Now, they have invested about a billion dollars in 40 companies that are going to benefit from cap-and-trade legislation. So is the legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?

GORE: I believe that the transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it. But every penny that I have made, I have put right into a nonprofit, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to spread awareness of why we have to take on this challenge.

And Congresswoman, if you're — if you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don't know me.

BLACKBURN: Sir, I'm not making accusations, I'm asking questions that have been asked of me and individuals — constituents that were seeking a point of clarity, so I am asking you for that point of — point of clarity.

GORE: I understand exactly what you're doing, Congresswoman. Everybody here does.

BLACKBURN: And, well — you know, are you willing to divest yourself of any profit? Does all of it go to a not-for-profit that is an educational not-for-profit –

GORE: Every penny that I have made –

BLACKBURN: Every penny –

GORE: – has gone to it. Every penny from the movie, from the book, from any investments in renewable energy. I've been willing to put my money where my mouth is. Do you think there's something wrong with being active in business in this country?

BLACKBURN: I am simply asking for clarification –

GORE: I'm proud of it.

BLACKBURN: – of the relationship.

GORE: I'm proud of it.

JR:  Not only does Ingraham doctor the video, here is what she says after showing it.

INGRAHAM: Did she get the question actually answered? With us now Marc Morano, who's the executive editor of….

JR:  Yes, Laura, she did get the question actually answered — you just doctored it out and now have the nerve to make that slanderous insinuation.

Road to Copenhagen, Part 3: Re-Tooling Industry

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 06:25 AM PST case we need more evidence that an urgent economic transformation is required to avoid catastrophic climate change, it can be found in a new study commissioned by World Wildlife Fund International.

Conducted by Climate Risk Pty. Ltd. of Great Britain and Australia, the study concludes:

Runaway climate change is almost inevitable without specific action to implement low-carbon re-industrialization over the next five years [emphasis added]…  World governments have a window that will close between now and 2014. In that time they must establish fully operational, low-carbon industrial architecture. This must drive a low-carbon re-industrialization that will be faster than any previous economic and industry transformation…Today, only three out of 20 industries are moving sufficiently fast enough.

By "low carbon re-industrialization", the authors mean energy efficiency and clean generation technologies, low-carbon agriculture, and sustainable forestry. They have identified 24 critical resources and industries the world will need to develop quickly to avoid climate catastrophe. Among their conclusions:

  • By itself, emissions trading will not be enough to cause the necessary re-industrialization of the world economy.  We will need massive private investments; tens of trillions of dollars from the investment community; and more aggressive government action to create a stable long-term investment environment.

"Starting with the least-cost mitigation solutions and working our way forward to higher-cost solutions as carbon prices rise – that approach will take too long," says Sean Kidney, Climate Risk's manager in Europe. "We need to tackle all solutions at the same time."

  • To achieve an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, the world will have to invest $400 billion annually in green industries by 2025. Every year the economic transformation is delayed will increase its costs and the rate of low-carbon industrial growth required for de-carbonizing industry.
  • Due to the large economies of scale created in the transition, the average production costs of renewable energy technologies will become less than energy produced from fossil fuels. The cost "cross-over" will start as early as 2013 and all renewable industries will be independently viable by 2050, even without a price on carbon. This will deliver energy savings of $47 trillion by 2050.

"We can harvest these enormous future savings now to create an income stream that funds the capital expenditures we need," Kidney says. How? Kidney and his colleagues are working on a number of ideas for new bonding mechanisms designed specifically to finance low-carbon investments.

What is government's role?  The Presidential Climate Action Project has submitted several re-industrialization proposals to the Obama Administration and Congress. Among them:

  • Stabilize federal incentives for the development of green markets and industries.  The federal government's on-again/off-again incentives for solar and wind development are an example of disruptive rather than constructive government intervention. Uncertainty about the stability of those incentives in recent years put renewable energy companies on a roller-coaster ride rather than a stable up-ramp for development.
  • Make aggressive commitments at the federal and state levels to decarbonize government supply chains. At last count, the federal government had more than 500,000 buildings, 600,000 vehicles and $18 billion in energy expenditures each year.  Establishing low-carbon requirements for the companies that supply those products will help produce the economies of manufacturing scale that drive down costs for the rest of society.
  • Update and revitalize the Department of Energy's (DOE) Industries of the Future program. That Clinton-era initiative helped America's most energy-intensive industries create technology roadmaps to a future of much greater energy efficiency and much less pollution. The roadmaps guided federal R&D and industry investment. In its new incarnation, the program should be expanded to all of our most carbon-intensive industries and to define each of their paths to a low-carbon future.
  • Expand DOE's Industrial Assessment Center program and include carbon audits. In this program, graduate engineering students and faculty at participating universities conduct free energy audits for small and medium industries. If carbon audits were added, students would learn some of the engineering skills they'll need in a low-carbon economy, while providing small manufacturing companies with the technical help they need to thrive in a carbon-constrained market.
  • Dedicate a significant portion of cap-and-trade revenues to the reinvention of American industry, including tax credits for businesses that install, manufacture or service the products necessary to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Include transition incentives for small businesses – our largest source of new jobs and innovations.
  • Regularly update the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides – a set of guidelines first issued in 1992 to discourage corporate greenwashing.  In the wide-wide world of sustainability, consumers already face a daunting array of green labels: the recycled-content logo, various forest-certification systems, Green-E certification for renewable energy, LEED for buildings, the Green Press Initiative logo, the Ancient Forest Friendly initiative, Green Seal, USDA's National Organic certification, EPA's Energy Star label. Canada has an EgoLogo program, the EU has the EcoFlower label, Germany has the Blue Angel label and five Nordic countries use the Nordic Swan label. As green products increase in popularity, we can expect more of these programs. We may not come up with a universal green label, but government can establish the standards by which green labels are judged.
  • Support the United Nations' Global Green New Deal initiative, which is working to quantify and promote the potential of green industries to alleviate poverty, reduce environmental damage and create new jobs worldwide. The World Bank has just estimated that developing economies will need as much as $100 billion annually until mid-century – double current foreign aid from developed nations – just to adapt to climate change. That means new demand for the products and services of companies that can help nations cut their greenhouse gases and cope with the climate changes already on the way.

We will not avoid climate catastrophe merely by tinkering around the edges of industrial society or by counting on a slow evolution of technologies and markets. As businessman and environmentalist Paul Hawken puts it, "There isn't one single thing that we make that doesn't require a complete remake."

Alex Steffen, the executive editor of, says: "The magnitude of the crises we face, the speed with which they are unfolding…mean that the solutions we need to embrace are not going to be the same sort of solutions we're used to thinking of now…Faced with the need to reinvent the material basis of our civilization, we argue paper or plastic."

Can we reinvent world industry in only five years? The rapid redirection of U.S. industry during World War II suggests that it may be possible – but not without intense collaboration between governments and industries. There must be a third party in the deal, too: the citizen-consumer.  In my next post, I'll suggest how government, industry and consumers can collaborate in a new social contract for economic transformation.

– Bill Becker

[JR:  I would note that if this statement is true -- "To achieve an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, the world will have to invest $400 billion annually in green industries by 2025" -- the U.S. share is about $100 billion a year, which is just about what the climate and clean energy bill would result in (see "The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill").  I actually think we'll need a bigger investment, maybe twice as big by 2025.]

Breaking: Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman "will be working closely with the White House" to develop separate tripartisan climate bill to get 60 votes — with Reid's and Boxer's consent; Graham rebukes fellow Republicans saying, "The green economy is coming!"

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 03:51 PM PST

In a mid-day press conference with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) that followed a meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said:

We think we have a good team here to help create a dual track which we want to emphasize is done with the full consent and support of Sen. Boxer and of other senators involved in this process including the Majority Leader, Harry Reid.  We will be working very, very closely with the administration and fully respectful of all of the efforts made by each individual committee with jurisdiction in this area. and there are six of them. I happen to be chair of one. But there are five others. And they're all equally important in their contributions to this.

Our effort is to try to reach out to broaden the base of support beyond the six committees of jurisdiction. And we're going to do that working very closely with the chairs of those committees as well as with members across the Senate. The key here is to really negotiate once in a sense, not negotiate with ourselves and not negotiate just in the Senate and then not have the White House also at the table.

So we just completed a meeting with Secretary Chu, talking about his department's parameters that might and might not be acceptable with respect to this legislation. We're meeting this afternoon, the three of us, with Secretary Salazar and with Carol Browner who, as we all know, is the point person for the White House on this topic. We will be working closely with the White House over the course of the next weeks with a few to trying to pull together what ultimately could be presented to Sen. Reid and the leadership as a piece of legislation that we hope could get the 60 votes necessary to pass or more, and we would hope it would be more.

Brad Johnson at Wonk Room has Graham's remarkable remarks and this video:

While other Senate Republicans led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) boycott action on the climate crisis, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has chosen a leadership role. In a press conference today with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the author of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Graham rebuked Republicans unwilling to address carbon pollution, asking, "If you can't participate in solving a hard problem, why are you up here?" Saying that he has "seen the effects of a warming planet," Graham called for the United States to "lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution":

The green economy is coming. We can either follow or lead. And those countries who follow will pay a price. Those nations who lead in creating the new green economy for the world will make money.

Graham's words recall the testimony of former Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and White House official Van Jones, who told Congress in January, "We can build a green economy Dr. King would be proud of." Van Jones, the founder of Green for All, left the White House after talk show host Glenn Beck targeted him as an "avowed communist and radical activist." Beck has warned that efforts to build a green economy are "socialism," "black nationalism," and "fascism."

Sen. Kerry announced that the three senators would work in a "dual track" to the committee process now underway to craft clean energy legislation in concert with the White House, which they hope to present directly to the Senate leadership. The senators conducted the press conference in between meetings with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and White House climate advisor Carol Browner.

Graham also discussed how Americans of any party "really feel uncomfortable with the fact that our nation sends a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil from some countries who don't like us very much," saying that part of "this initiative is to create a vision for energy independence and marry it up with a responsible climate control carbon pollution controls and create a new economy."

Graham emphasized that his vision is to "help this planet" that "is in peril, create millions of new jobs for Americans that need them, and to become energy independent to make us safer," because he believes that "controlling carbon pollution is good business." Although he hoped for participation from his fellow Republicans, he said, "If you believe carbon pollution is not a problem, then you wouldn't want to work with me, because I do."


GRAHAM: The reason I've gotten involved in this issue is I see kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity politically to solve two real problems that I think the country and the world faces. One, carbon pollution. I am no scientist, but I've traveled throughout the world with Sen. McCain and others and seen the effects of a warming planet. And I do believe all of the cars we have on the roads, and the trucks, and all the energy we use that produces carbon daily is not a good thing for the planet.

But if environmental policy is not good business policy, you'll never get 60 votes. So my goal is to try to make sure that we fashion environmental policy that will create millions of new jobs for Americans who are desiring to have new jobs. Virginia and New Jersey are going to benefit from what we do. South Carolina, Connecticut, and Massachusetts will benefit.

The green economy is coming. We can either follow or lead. And those countries who follow will pay a price. Those nations who lead in creating the new green economy for the world will make money. The business community senses an opportunity they've not had before. That's why they're at least exploring the possibility of a new pathway forward.

I've been told by a lot of business leaders in South Carolina, "Senator Graham, once you price carbon in a reasonable way, this green economy that we're hoping for really will begin to flourish."

The other aspect of why I'm involved is energy independence. Remember "Drill here, drill now"? Where did that go? Four dollar a gallon gas is not in our face but it could be soon. I think most Americans — Republicans, independents or Democrats — really feel uncomfortable with the fact that our nation sends a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil from some countries who don't like us very much. Part of this initiative is to create a vision for energy independence and marry it up with a responsible climate control carbon pollution controls and create a new economy.

Finally, our country doesn't have a vision on carbon. We need one. And we need to lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution. Our country doesn't have the infrastructure in place to build a green economy and never will until we price carbon.

And our country doesn't have a vision for energy independence. We need one. Our goal is to create that vision that not only will help this planet — that I think is in peril — but create millions of new jobs for Americans that need them, and to become energy independent to make us safer.

. . .

What I've got to do is convince people in South Carolina and our colleagues up here as a whole that environmental policy will be good business policy. And if Congress doesn't act, the EPA will.

Every member of Congress, Republicans included, has to answer to themselves and their constituents. Is carbon pollution a problem? If it is, what are you going to do about it? Some Republicans want a carbon tax. In many ways, that is a fairer system but I don't think there are the votes for it. If you believe carbon pollution is not a problem, then you wouldn't want to work with me, because I do. Now, if you … a cap-and-trade bill has to be well-crafted not to put us at competitive disadvantage to China and India.

I am convinced with my colleagues that controlling carbon pollution is good business. If you do it right, people can make money and you'll have a cleaner planet and the world will follow. So I hope my Republican colleagues will at least listen, come to the table as the Chamber has, see where we're going, give us input and if at the end of the day, you can't support it, that's okay.

But last thought. Doing nothing has a consequence. The EPA will do something. Doing nothing has a consequence to our business opportunity in leading the green economy revolution that's coming and controlling carbon emissions.

So I think most people are upset with the Congress because we're not doing anything that matters. And the things that we do do we're overdoing. So we're trying to get that sweet spot of a bill that will be good for the environment, good for business and make us energy independent.

So my hope is that participation is seen as a positive, not a negative. If you can't participate in solving a hard problem, why are you up here?

Solar power when the sun goes down — with help from United Technologies

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 02:09 PM PST

Concentrated solar thermal with storage (aka solar baseload) remains "The technology that will save humanity."  And we are seeing more and more plants in various phases of construction (see "World's largest solar plant with thermal storage to be built in Arizona — total of 8500 MW of this core climate solution planned for 2014 in U.S. alone").

The easiest way to deal with the intermittency of the sun is cheap storage — and thermal storage is much cheaper and has a much higher round-trip efficiency than electric storage.  The ability to provide power reliably throughout the day and evening in key locations around the world (including China and India) is why CSP delivers 3 of the 12 – 14 wedges needed for "the full global warming solution."

Now "A Santa Monica, Calif., company called SolarReserve has taken a step toward making that a reality, filing an application with California regulators to build a 150-megawatt solar farm that will store seven hours' worth of the sun's energy in the form of molten salt," as the NYT's Green Inc. reports today.  "Heat from the salt can be released when it's cloudy or at night to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine."  And SolarReserve has a big-time Fortune 50 clean energy partner:

United Technologies has licensed the technology to SolarReserve and will guarantee its performance — a crucial advantage for the startup when it seeks financing from skittish bankers to build the Rice solar farm.

Below is an artist's rendering of such a plant that focuses thousands of mirrors on millions of gallons of liquefied salt:


Here are more details:

The Rice Solar Energy Project, to be built in the Sonoran Desert east of Palm Springs, will "generate steady and uninterrupted power during hours of peak electricity demand," according to SolarReserve's license application.

So-called dispatchable solar farms would in theory allow utilities to avoid spending billions of dollars building fossil fuel power plants that are fired up only a few times a year when electricity demand spikes, like on a hot day.

SolarReserve is literally run by rocket scientists, many of whom formerly worked at Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of the technology giant United Technologies. Rocketdyne developed the solar salt technology, which was proven viable at the 10-megawatt Solar Two demonstration project near Barstow, Calif., in the 1990s….

As many as 17,500 large mirrors — each one 24 feet by 28 feet — will be attached to 12-foot pedestals. The mirrors, called heliostats, will be arrayed in a circle around a 538-foot concrete tower.

Atop the tower will sit a 100-foot receiver filled with 4.4 million gallons of liquid salt. The heliostats will focus the sun on the receiver, heating the salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. The liquefied salt flows through a steam-generating system to drive the turbine and is returned to the receiver to be heated again.

SolarReserve isn't the only developer planning to tap molten salt to store solar energy. Abengoa Solar, for instance, intends to use salt storage at its 280-megawatt Solana solar trough plant outside Phoenix.

That project, however, will heat tubes filled with synthetic oil to create steam and transfer some of the heat to salt-filled storage tanks. By using salt for both steam and storage, SolarReserve can generate higher-temperature steam, which will allow the Rice power plant to operate much more efficiently, according to Kevin Smith, SolarReserve's chief executive.

"Consequently, our system can capture three times the energy for the same pound of salt," Mr. Smith wrote in an e-mail message. "Plus they have additional 'bolt on' equipment, plus multiple heat transfer steps to go from oil to salt to oil and then to steam for electricity generation."

SolarReserve's plant will be built on private land — the site of a former World War II-era Army airfield — near the desert ghost town of Rice. The company will air-cool the power plant, avoiding controversies over water use that have dogged other solar projects….

The company said it is negotiating with California utilities to buy the electricity generated from the Rice project and expects the solar farm to go online in October 2013, barring unforeseen delays.

Related Posts:

Energy and Global Warming News for November 4: Economists see threat in global warming

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 12:43 PM PST

Survey: Economists see threat in climate change

Researchers who deal in cold numbers rather than warming climates believe the "significant benefits from curbing greenhouse-gas emissions would justify the costs of action," a new survey finds.

In fact, the survey of economists finds 94% believe the U.S. should join climate agreements to limit global warming.

The survey results to be released today come as debate over the economics of global warming moves center stage in Washington, D.C. Republican senators boycotted a hearing Tuesday over an Environmental Protection Agency analysis about the costs of a clean-energy bill. In addition, the United States and European Union are preparing for a December meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a climate treaty.

"An economist tree hugger is an imaginary creature," says Michael Livermore of New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, which conducted the survey. "But we found that economists really see climate change poses a lot of risk to the economy."

The survey approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75% agreed or strongly agreed on the "value" of greenhouse-gas controls.

In the survey of economists:

•91.6% wanted a tax or "cap and trade" system, where polluters buy and sell emission permits, instead of regulation, to cut greenhouse gases.

•84% agreed the effects of global warming "create significant risks" to the economy, particularly to agriculture, fishing, insurance and health.

•Of the 94.3% who favor the U.S. joining climate agreements to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, 57% say greenhouse-gas cuts should come "regardless of the actions of other countries."

This shouldn't be a total surprise, since most major independent economic analyses show even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar.

Merkel urges Congress to act on climate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Congress and the Obama administration Tuesday to take bold steps to address global warming, even as Senate Democrats and Republicans feuded over whether to press ahead with a climate bill.

peaking at a joint meeting of Congress, Merkel described climate change as one of the "great tests" of the 21st century. She took pains to compliment lawmakers and the administration for viewing "the protection of our climate to be a very important task," even as she suggested that they move faster.

"We all know we have no time to lose," she said.

While the entire Democratic side gave those remarks a standing ovation, most Republicans — including key swing voters, such as  Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) — remained in their seats. When Merkel added that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would spur growth in "innovative" jobs worldwide, the same partisan divide marked lawmakers' reaction.

Merkel tried to assuage lawmakers' concerns that any agreement coming out of international climate talks in Copenhagen next month would not include binding commitments from China and India, saying those nations will make serious emissions cuts once the leaders of industrialized nations "show ourselves ready to adopt binding commitments."

"In December the world will look to us, to the Europeans and to the Americans," she said.

Obama: Time to "Redouble our Efforts" on climate change before Copenhagen

President Obama today said that efforts need to be redoubled in order to make progress at the Copenhagen climate change summit next month in December.

"And all of us agreed that it was imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting, to assure that we create a framework for progress in dealing with what is a potential ecologic disaster."

The President spoke today at the end of the U.S.-European Union Summit in the Cabinet Room with the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana.

The leaders emerged from their hour-long meeting today confident about the status of the climate change negotiations that will culminate next month in Copenhagen. The summit will attempt to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2010.

"Regarding climate change I want to tell that I am more confident now than I was in days before," Barroso said, "President Obama changed the climate on the climate negotiations because with the strong leadership of United States we can indeed make an agreement.  We are working toward a framework agreement in Copenhagen that will be an important agreement for the world."

Groups press U.S. and China on carbon

Three prominent American research organizations that are pushing for greater cooperation between the Obama administration and China on the issue of climate change say the two governments should make a priority of supporting the use of carbon capture technology and the creation of a market for carbon.

The organizations, the Asia Society, the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or N.R.D.C., are putting out two separate reports this month that urge the two governments to put more money into projects in China that can better develop the technology of carbon capture and sequestration, commonly called C.C.S. The process captures carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and power plants before they enter the atmosphere and stores them underground, usually in geological formations.

President Obama is scheduled to make his first trip to China this month. He and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said cooperation on climate change is a new top priority in United States-China relations. But the two countries have yet to take concrete steps together on any proposals. Some environmental advocates who have been following the talks say they are growing increasingly pessimistic about the chances of serious cooperation.

Advocates also say that any hope of a meaningful result emerging from the international climate change summit meeting to take place in December in Copenhagen might depend on whether the United States and China first demonstrate that they can reach agreements among themselves.

Senate Dems propose their share of contentious amendments

The Republicans may be boycotting the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee markup of climate legislation, but panel Democrats have been busy, filing 80 amendments for whenever the debate resumes.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the markup yesterday on the 959-page climate bill, though she did not get very far after Republicans boycotted the business meeting over what they say is insufficient analysis from U.S. EPA.

Boxer yesterday told reporters she would wait for Republicans "before we do any amendments" — though she walked back from that statement a few moments later and said she had not ruled out proceeding on the bill if the GOP committee members do not show up eventually.

Republicans for the second time yesterday ignored Boxer's deadlines for submitting amendments, leaving only the 80 Democratic items on the agenda should Boxer proceed with the markup. Some of the amendments focus on hot-button issues like greenhouse gas emission limits and pre-emption from U.S. EPA climate regulations.

Here is a rundown of some of the amendments pending in the EPW Committee:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has offered a series of provisions aimed at changing the bill's current 20 percent emissions target for 2020, according to his office.

Under one approach, Baucus would establish a two-tiered mid-term target that starts at 17 percent, though it go to 20 percent if other countries adopt and implement their own reduction targets before 2013. Baucus also has an amendment that would set the 2020 target at 14 percent, which is the same level that President Obama used during his presidential campaign last year.

Baucus' bid to overhaul the 2020 emissions limit may be the biggest fight of the EPW Committee markup. Boxer and the lead sponsor of S. 1733, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), say the recent economic downturn has already driven down domestic emissions and makes their goal that much more achievable. Liberals on the committee, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), have countered that they would prefer an even more aggressive 2020 emissions limit.

But Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, opened the climate hearings last week warning of his own "serious reservations" if the sponsors did not budge on this issue.

Other Baucus amendments include a requirement that any state program with more stringent greenhouse gas limits after 2017 must be approved by that state's Legislature, as well as presidential oversight of domestic and international carbon offset project criteria.

Further pushing the envelope with his Democratic colleagues, Baucus also is seeking to limit EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act — with specific goals of exempting agriculture and small sources that emit less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

Baucus also has an amendment that would eliminate EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the law's New Source Review provisions, which focus on aging industrial facilities. And he would try to block EPA after 2020 from regulating enteric fermentation or manure under the law's New Source Performance Standards, which deal with new industrial facilities.

Greening Your Small Business

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 12:24 PM PST

CP's newest guest blogger is Jennifer Kaplan, founder of Greenhance LLC, which offers small businesses environmentally friendly marketing and graphic design.  She also teaches marketing at Marymount University in Arlington, VA. Her new book from Prentice Hall, "Greening Your Small Business: How to Improve Your Bottom Line, Grow Your Brand, Satisfy Your Customers—and Save the Planet," comes out this month.

There's a revolution going on in the American marketplace. Businesses across the country are changing the way they operate by incorporating green practices, products, and objectives into their business models.  And some savvy entrepreneurs are getting in on the ground floor.  At the same time, others are still wondering where small businesses fit into this new paradigm.

If you are wondering where small business fits into the green revolution let's start with the recognition that 27 million small businesses can have a big impact. There are many business owners, however, who are doubtful and wonder whether small business has a role to play in managing climate change. Surely, they think, most small business' individual impacts are minuscule, possibly immeasurably small. But the reality is that, in aggregate, the total climate-related impact of small businesses adds up. Without question every business, no matter the size, has an indirect impact on climate; the electricity, heating, cooling, transportation, and other services they use all translate into CO2 output with global warming impact. Then there's the law of large numbers—a small action multiplied by 27 million has a significant impact.

Take the example of green information technology.

For a small business, IT may not seem like a likely candidate for greening, but given the scale of computer use among small businesses, it is. Although the environmental impact of a businesses' IT operations varies greatly depending on how much computer hardware is needed to run the business, reductions in energy consumption and energy expenses can be made for operations that have a single computer on site. It may be that there is no area of business more subject to the law of large numbers than information technology. Consider these facts: Having Concepcion Picciotto - White House Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil Co-Founder with W. Thomas

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Path to Dec 7-18 talks in Copenhagen.

Four more rounds of formal negotiations are scheduled before the Dec 7-18 talks in Copenhagen. These are June 1-12 in Bonn, Germany; Aug 10-14 in Bonn; Sept 28 to Oct 9 in Bangkok; and Nov 2-6, at a venue yet to be decided.

In addition, heads of state and government will gather in September at a U.N. climate change summit in New York and President Obama will host a major economies forum on the sidelines of the G8 in Italy in July. Two other meetings convened by the United States will take place, one probably 26-27 May in Paris and another in June.

About Me

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Born to a father of immense spiritual health but end in a town of degenerate material wealth after 50 years lost in an orgy of that material wealth finding my way back to my natural being, loving Spirit of goodness in action, and dying to lead others to the joy of that. More here.